Now more that 6,000 kilometres behind me. Tomorrow the big smoke; sin city; my old home-town, Sydney. In the meantime, here are some more observations from my meandering through rural New South Wales:
Monthly Archives: November 2010
A few days ago I came across the Ebor Campdraft. Campdrafting is a competition in which highly skilled riders practice the craft of “cutting out” individual cattle from a group of animals by using their riding ability and the agility of their horse prevent it from following its natural instinct to rejoin the mob.
Having “cut out” the beast they then have to guide it through a course of right and left hand turns and through a gate. That’s about as much as this particular novice could make of the event after I stopped to photograph it on Saturday. Because the finals were to occur the following day, I drove back the 80 km from Gunnedah to take more pictures. Here are a few pictures from the event:
In the sleepy northern town of Bellingen in New South Wales, there stands this beautiful temple to retailing: Hammond and Wheatley’s Commercial Emporium; established 1900. A lyric poem in brick, iron, glass and timber, this building proudly sings the archaic words of a bygone age: ironmongery, millinery, drapery, even emporium itself. Proudly maintained, it evokes pride and confidence. It would be a crime if progress were ever to threaten the existence of this cathedral of commerce.
So far I’ve travelled 4,500km in 14 days. I’m now in Gunnedah in Central New South Wales to photograph the livestock auctions before heading to Dubbo and then angling back towards Sydney through the Hunter Valley. Here are a few more observations from my visual diary that might amuse:
The edge of New South Wales that is…a few wry observations as I head east from Lightning Ridge to Byron Bay:
Yesterday I saw a man pushing a loaded bicycle along the highway about 30 kilometres from Bourke. Early, this morning I saw his bicycle leaning against a wall outside a cafe. Around noon I passed him again walking away from town and resolved to stop and talk to him. I made a u-turn and passing him again, parked a couple of hundred metres down the road and waited for him to approach.
As he drew near, I gave as laconic a bush-type greeting as I could muster; “G’day! You got the time to stop and talk?” “No, not really”, he replied…but he stopped anyway. I grabbed the opportunity and asked him how far he’d come. “Walked from Albury. 1000 kilometres in 25 days”.
He told me then, that not many people stopped to talk. “You get the occasional retired couple, but the grey-power mob are mostly snobs”, he said. We discussed the way the world had changed; he seemed to feel the world would be a better place if progress had halted in 1965. “All the young people today are dot.com people. Technology is everything to them”.
He told me that walking with his gear balanced on a bicycle was better than carrying it on his back. Using the bicycle he could carry much more and he wasn’t in a hurry. I told him of an exhibition of bicycles used by the Viet Cong to carry supplies on the Ho Chi Minh trail, that I had seen in Amsterdam.
I asked him why he walked. “I’m 65” he said, “I like the outback and I just want to do something significant before I die”. He was on his way to Katherine in the Northern Territory. What I liked was that his idea of “significance” involved no fanfare, no publicity, no fund-raising for worthy causes, no acknowledgment. This was significance without ego.
When I asked if I could take his photo he said, “I don’t mind, if that’s what you’d like”. I took the pictures and then reached for my wallet and asked, “Can I offer you a gift to help smooth your way?”. “No thank you. I don’t take gifts”, he said, “I get the pension. I’m OK”.
He then apologised for being an “uninteresting subject” and that he did not have a more interesting story to offer. I told him, that in stopping to talk all I had been seeking was a conversation from the heart and Robert Newport, for that was the name he gave, had given me all of that.
As I drove off I thought of a hundred questions I would have liked to ask, but felt privileged that he had given me a quality quarter-hour of his day. I’m hoping I might encounter Robert Newport, gentleman of the highway again, along the way tomorrow.
I’ve been wending my way northwards through New South Wales more slowly than anticipated. The main thing slowing me down has been the picture opportunities along the way. For a photographer with time to spare, that can only be good.
No sooner do I get into the Australian countryside than I seem to be overtaken by the spirit of Walker Evans. This is probably appropriate in that the project I’m involved in is inspired by the work of the photographers of the Farm Security Administration. Coincidentally, their work was intended as a documentation of the economic stimulus package designed to lift America out of the depression.
Tomorrow morning I plan to photograph a farmers’ rally to protest the Federal Government proposed water restrictions on irrigation. Practically the whole town of Bourke is expected to shut down for the rally. More FSA type documentation it seems…
plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr